It’s been less than our one week mark here in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I have to begin to reflect on what an experience this has been thus far and the ‘magic’ that has taken place in transforming not only myself, but of those around me. We have come together as 10 students from different backgrounds and different programs at The Chicago School. We each have different passions, different interests, and different talents. We arrived here in Belfast not knowing what to expect. What has risen from this unknowing has been a call to action, to unite as a group to help promote wellness and safety.
When I speak of wellness and safety, I must encourage you, the reader, the step outside our American framework of what “US Culture” has defined wellness and safety. Often, many of us find structure, organization, and the daily/weekly/monthly planning to be a safe place for us. There is safety in the knowing. However, to promote that notion of safety to an area that not only has experienced any singular trauma, but rather, a complex, complicated, repeated, and unresolved trauma would be doing the people of Belfast a great disservice. Many of those reading this blog may be asking, “What is it exactly that you are doing over there?” In response to that, I must simply and humbly respond with stating, “I am learning.”
From an academic standpoint, I am learning about the complications of complex/complicated trauma and Disorders of Extreme Stress (DES NOS). I am also learning about suicidality in Belfast, statistics, possible causes, triggers, and intervention models. I am also attempting to understand the link between the trauma and increase in the rate of suicide in this region/area of conflict.
If I were to leave you with what I wrote above, it would be a great injustice to every individual I have interacted with on this trip thus far. I have met with families who have experienced suicide close and within their homes: they have lost a son, daughter, brother, sister, father, mother, uncle and aunt, or any combination of the above. During the troubles, these same families have lost family members, friends, and relatives to murders, bombings, and war. I have had the humble honour of being allowed and invited to sit and hear their story. It was these interactions that have taught me more about not only the complexity of “living” in Belfast, but have also challenged me to learn more about myself.
The environment here in Belfast is so different. Upon arriving here, I noticed a heaviness about me; the air was thicker, my shoulders felt weighed down, and despite the sunshine, everything looked gray. I ask you, the reader, to reflect on what this might mean. In closing, I ask you to consider the following quote in your reflection:
“Landscape has a secret and silent memory, a narrative of presence where nothing is ever lost or forgotten.” – John O’Donohue